Five Check-List Essentials to Avoid Implementation Fog
Ignore These Recommendations and Your Project May Get Stuck in a Quagmire
By Robert Birdsall, Director SCMO2
Ready to get started on that next big project that your company has been discussing for years? My experience has proven time again that prior to commencing any major implementation, there are five check-list essentials that you should address. Checklists are critical, every project needs them and this one isn’t a huge secret. But as obvious as some of these items seem, they are still frequently overlooked (or half completed). Do these things, and your project is almost certain to be a success.
1. Know WHY You are Doing this Project
Seriously. Of course it should be obvious and easy to document, but I have been witness to a considerable number of projects for which the project team does not understand the WHY. All they know is that they have been tasked with building a specific product or tool. But without understanding why all this time and money is being spent, no team will be equipped to make day-to-day decisions on the project that will promote its success. For all projects, everyone on the team must understand the:
- Business Objectives
- Background, Requirements, and How They Came to Be
- Measures of Success
2. Know the Players, and Have Them Properly Engaged
Every company is running lean these days. There are more demands on fewer resources, and some new “project” that is not clearly communicated may quickly fall low on the priority list of a critical team member. A project’s team should include your sponsor, direct reports and all of your many wayward stakeholders. Keeping these resources informed, engaged and promptly contributing is often a full time job, but it is made much more difficult if proper awareness is not generated from the start. Ensure you have all of the critical players identified, on board, and committed to meeting your expectations with project support.
3. Know the Scope
In any undertaking, the WHY should always drive the WHAT. And the WHAT is your project scope. It’s the solution to why you are doing this project in the first place and is supported heavily by your efforts in designing this product, solution or tool. Scope is the proverbial box that is drawn around project activities to ensure execution will be focused, efficient and ultimately successful. Projects that do not have a well-defined scope are certain to wander off track, overrun their budget and fail to achieve their goals.
4. Have a Plan
Of course you don’t know absolutely everything that must be done at the beginning of a project. But that is not an excuse against trying. The entire project team must understand the starting point (as-is state), the end point (to-be state) and how to get from start to end (the methodology). Details are not as critical when first developing a plan—start at a high level, plan the short-term activities in detail and progressively elaborate the details in the remaining phases based on what you learn as you go. A project plan is a living document that is expected to morph and evolve as milestones are achieved and measured. Refer to it frequently, incorporate any new lessons learned, revise to accommodate and you’ll be much better prepared for success.
5. Prepare to Manage the Outcomes
Regardless of the desired goal, projects of all types generate tangible outcomes and artifacts. These could be a working document, the actual solution itself, or simply the repository of issues that have arisen and need to be addressed. Once you begin generating outcomes, it’s already too late to define a place to record them. This is the WHERE. Create a repository (for some it might even be a physical warehouse) to accommodate the output of your team. Over time, important details and outcomes will get lost without a place to put them. Be prepared in advance, or critical items will go missing and cost significant time and money to replace.
My decades of experience have resulted in a nearly endless book of tips and tricks that can increase the probability of success in a project. But these are the five pillars upon which you do everything else. Performing rapid implementations requires a robust toolset and a disciplined approach and at SCMO2, these are the essentials that we would never move forward without defining.